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PHYSICS Finding the Higgs Is Only the Beginning

7 New Faculty Members

College of Arts and Sciences Department of Physics

Autumn 2013

Physics Activity Labs Enhanced with Technology (PALET Labs) Foster a New Way to Learn Physics These newly renovated spaces can hold up to 80 students and three instructors in one lab at the same time while providing a unique, comfortable learning environment. Not only do students have access to the latest laboratory equipment and technology, everything in the PALET Labs is designed for an optimal learning experience. Specially-designed tables and seating arrangements facilitate working in groups. Floor and ceiling installations muffle sound, lighting provides the right degree of brightness, and the floor plan provides ease in moving around. Two PALET labs are up-and-running and a third one is scheduled to be finished next academic year.

CONTENTS 4 6 9 10 13 14 15 16

Chair’s Message­


All About ALICE

New Faculty The Gold Standard

Outreach: Bridging the Gap Outreach: Bridging

the Gap

Our Students–Our Legacy

Bridge Students: But For Ohio State

Message from the Chair Dear Friends of Ohio State Physics, Once again, it is my privilege to share a sample of exciting news being made in the Department of Physics. Our department is on the move, as is our university. We are making targeted investments in select faculty hires, in attracting top students, and in programs and facilities that build on our strengths to expand our reach and competitive edge. In this issue, you will see our commitment to distinction in everything we do–in research, teaching, service, and outreach. The cover story, pages 6-8, gives an inside look at the Higgs discovery. It is testimony to the international nature of our research collaborations and the way milestone discoveries are made through large collaborations. We are very proud of the key roles our faculty and students played in this hunt over many years. We are proud to introduce you to seven impressive new faculty members who we successfully recruited from top institutions around the country. Two joined us last year, four arrived this August, and one arrives in January. On pages 10-13, they talk about what brought them to Ohio State, their research goals, and their passions beyond physics. You will be sure to hear more about them. Our students, both undergraduate and graduate, are a constant source of pride. Each year, they win top national awards, successfully competing with their peers across the country. See the Gold Standard on page 13. Check out our spectacular new PALET labs (inside the front cover). These labs offer an enhanced learning environment for our basic undergraduate courses that encourage a love and appreciation of physics.

4 Department of Physics

We are honored that we were awarded one of the American Physical Society’s first Bridge Program grants to increase opportunities for talented under-represented minorities to earn PhD’s in physics. Read about the program, now underway, on page 14. We continue to explore ways to make physics accessible to the public and expand awareness of the vibrant career opportunities a degree in physics can open up. This past summer, we hosted private tours for students and parents interested in physics, some as young as eighth grade; and we continue to offer the successful GRASP day camp for middle school girls. We could not offer these opportunities without the dedication of our students, staff, and faculty; and our leading-edge facilities. People make the difference in all phases of our work. Folks with imagination and ingenuity make discoveries that allow us to better understand the world we live in, and make a real difference in the lives of our students and our communities. I hope you enjoy this “snapshot” of the very lively life of physics at Ohio State. To stay up on what is happening, visit physics.osu. edu, or when you are in town, please come by the Physics Research Building. The door is always open. Please let us hear from you. Our alumni are our truest friends and greatest legacy.

Jim Beatty Professor/Chair

Physics Faculty Research Awards Dongping Zhong, the Robert Smith Professor of Physics and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, given for prior achievement and exceptional promise. Zhong studies biological dynamics imaging in space and time by four-dimensional electron microscopy. His grant will support teaching-release time to work in another institute to develop/expand his research. Assistant Professor Amy Connolly’s five-year, $650,000 CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will help support her search for high-energy neutrinos, a type of ubiquitous elementary particle, traveling at the speed of light, sometimes called “ghost particles” because they are so hard to find that only sophisticated experiments can catch and measure their properties. CAREER awards recognize and encourage the careers of exceptional and promising young researchers. Christopher Hirata, professor of astronomy and physics, is one of 21 scientists designated Simons Investigators by the Simons Foundation. Each member of this inaugural group is eligible to receive more than $1.3 million over the next 10 years to fund innovative research. Hirata also is one of 96 researchers to receive a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE)–the highest honor given by the U.S. government to scientists and engineers early in their research careers. Jason Ho (2012) and Eric Braaten (2013) received Simons Foundation Fellowships to support an exclusive year-long focus on research. The Simons Foundation, which supports advancing the frontiers of basic science and mathematics, awarded their first MPS (Mathematics and Physical Sciences) Fellowships in 2012 to fund the theoretical work of outstanding mathematicians and physicists.

RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS Developing the World’s Most Powerful Digital Camera: Professor Klaus Honscheid’s new software is running a powerful new camera designed to answer one of the biggest mysteries in physics— the Dark Energy Camera (DECam), located on a mountaintop in Chile—will help Dark Energy Survey (DES) researchers explore why the expansion of the universe is speeding up. Capturing the first real-time images of atoms moving in a molecule: Professor Louis DiMauro and his team used a new ultrafast camera to catch the first-ever, real-time images of two atoms vibrating in a molecule—the first step to observing and controlling chemical reactions on an atomic scale.


FINDING THE HIGGS Is Only the Beginning

FLASHBACK: Everyone remembers that in July 2012, officials at CERN (home of the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, in Geneva, Switzerland) announced the sensational news that a “Higgs-like boson” had been found. What most people don’t know is that this was not “news” to our high-energy experimental physicists working at CERN. They had played a key role in finding this elusive, fundamental subatomic particle months earlier. Our physicists dedicated decades to design and build hardware for experiments; working on the LHC’s ATLAS and CMS detectors that focused exclusively on finding the Higgs. Stan Durkin heads CMS Endcap Muon detector electronics and has been involved with CMS since 1994. Durkin, T.Y. Ling (now retired), and Benjamin Bylsma designed and constructed its Cathode Strip Chamber (CSC) electronics. Christopher Hill, the CMS deputy physics coordinator overseeing all analyses on the CMS detector, became part of Ohio State’s CMS team in 2010. K.K. Gan, Richard Kass, and Harris Kagan joined the ATLAS detector team in 1998. Kass, Kagan and Gan helped build its pixel detector, or camera—think of a digital camera on steroids— capable of capturing subatomic particles created by the collisions by measuring the trajectory of charged particles, including the ones that come from the decay of the Higgs.

The size and scope of the Large Haden Collider and its four detectors are staggering.

Cover story images courtesy of CERN.

6 Department of Physics

Ben Bylsma, Christopher Hill, and Stan Durkin in Durkin’s lab

FAST-FORWARD: It is now more than a full year since the announcement of the discovery of a Higgs-like boson. The Higgs discovery was confirmed by peer review in September 2012, but CERN scientists were reluctant to drop the “like” modifier after the word Higgs, until many more tests were run. Finally, on March 14, 2013, CERN announced that the particle described eight months earlier was indeed, a Higgs boson.

The LHC shut down on Feb. 16, 2013 for a two- year period to revamp the magnets around the 27 Km circumference LHC ring. This will significantly bump up its collision energy from the present 8 TeV to the final design energy of 14 TeV when data-taking resumes in early 2015. continued on page 8


OHIO STATE’S HIGGS DETECTIVES: NEWS FROM THE FRONTLINE THE ATLAS DETECTOR TEAM: Faculty (Gan, Kagan, Kass); postdocs Josh Moss, Yi Yang, and Renat Ishmukhametov; and graduate students Hayes Meritt, Kristina Looper, Ben Tannenwald, and David Pignotti are busy building and installing upgrades to the ATLAS experiment. They are helped by a recent grant from the National Science Foundation. “This MRI award will allow us to buy state of the art equipment to be used for research and development,” Kass said. “For one thing, we will be able to design and fabricate a much faster optical readout system to enhance the physics capability of the ATLAS experiment. “The big highlight since last year's discovery of a ‘Higgs like particle’ is that now everyone can call it a ‘Higgs particle.’ Many of the characteristics of this particle have been measured over the past several months and so it appears to be the simplest Higgs particle predicted by the Standard Model. “I say ‘simplest’ because many different versions of Higgs particles have been proposed over the last thirty years.” THE CMS DETECTOR TEAM: Faculty: Durkin, Hill, Bylsma, Richard Hughes, and Brian Winer; postdocs: Jamie Antonelli, Darren Puigh, Wells Wulsin, Carl Vuosalo, and Khristian Kotov; and graduate students: Bingxuan Liu, Jeffry Smith,

8 Department of Physics

Marissa Rodenburg, Jessica Brinson, and Andrew Hart are in the middle of an upgrade of the endcap muon electronics to improve particle measurement in the high intensity forward region. “The new data supports that the boson seen has the properties one would expect from the Standard Model Higgs theory, but questions remain,” Durkin said. “While the Standard Model is incredibly successful, we know it is incomplete—for instance, astrophysicists have shown that dark matter permeates the universe; studying the properties of the Higgs may lead to understanding dark matter. “With the increased LHC energy, data- taking in 2015 should be very exciting.” Christopher Hill reported, “Since July we’ve produced lots more Higgs-bosons, been able to do better measurements, and have about four times as much data. “Last summer the question was: does the particle have all the properties it should have? So far it looks exactly like our expectations of the Higgs. “We have been doing a lot of lab measurements and been checking that the math works the way it is supposed to. And, yes; it decays the way it should—its mass, spin, parity, coupling to other particles—all look like the theory that Higgs made up. It confirms the Standard Model, but there are still old questions to answer. When the LHC is up and running again, we will be better able to tackle them.”

ALL ABOUT ALICE The Heavy Ion Experiment

(L-R) Mike Lisa, Tom Humanic, and Ulrich Heinz

Ohio State physicists work on three of the four LHC detectors: ATLAS, CMS, and ALICE. ATLAS and CMS were designed to find the Higgs, ALICE as a heavy-ion detector. Mike Lisa and Tom Humanic have worked on ALICE since 1997; Ulrich Heinz was at CERN from 1998-2000 and served on the original LHC planning/ advisory committee in the 1980s. While the world is transfixed by the Higgs boson, the ALICE team focuses on the complex physics that occurs when quarks and gluons are “confined” inside protons and neutrons due to the Strong Force. “Actually,” Lisa said, “the Higgs is responsible for less than five percent of the visible mass in our universe; the other 95 percent comes from this fascinating force, which we study by colliding large nuclei, such as gold or lead, at very high energies.” Heavy-ion experiment physicists attempt to recreate conditions that existed for milliseconds after the Big Bang when the universe boiled with these elementary particles called quarks and gluons. In a flash, those particles cooled to form protons and neutrons, the building blocks of matter. Replicating and studying these intense matter densities—far exceeding those found at the center of an atomic nucleus—might help explain essential aspects of the nature of our universe.

“We look at nuclear matter under the most extreme conditions of pressure, density, and temperature,” Humanic said. “Normally, the actual behavior of quarks and gluons is difficult to study because they are confined within heavier particles. They can only be freed in matter of very high density, so we study collisions of heavy nuclei in high-speed accelerators in the United States and at CERN.” “These labs allow us to study this strongly-interacting matter at extreme energy densities, where we think the formation of a new phase of matter, the quarkgluon plasma, occurs,” Heinz said. “Each collision creates a ‘Little Bang,’ a mini universe that explodes and expands very much like the real universe after the Big Bang, only much faster. Working at the very highest energies we can measure the size and expansion velocity of the ‘Little Bang’ collision and correlate these observations with other variables to tell us the nature of plasma.” Lisa works at CERN, but spends more time at RHIC (the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider) at Brookhaven National Lab in New York. “I want to focus on the conditions and process by which this de-confinement transition actually occurs. The most interesting physics, from this point of view, is at lower energies than can be achieved at CERN, where the quark-gluon plasma cannot be turned down or off. RHIC was designed to produce collisions at a range of energies, so is ideal for studying the phase transition involving quarks and gluons.”



We welcome seven outstanding new faculty members to our department; they add their energy and passion for discovery to a group of the country’s most talented physicists, rising stars and seasoned professionals, who make us a leader in physics research and education. Here we share with you what brought them to Ohio State, their research goals, and a little bit about their interests beyond physics. (It should be noted that several are serious cooks.)

Rolando Valdes Aguilar

Ilya A. Gruzberg

Assistant Professor, Physics PhD—University of Maryland Previous Position—Postdoc: Los Alamos

Professor, Physics PhD—Yale University Previous Position—Associate Professor (Physics): University of Chicago

  The strength, collegiality, and collaborative spirit of Ohio State’s condensed matter physics group appealed to Valdes Aguilar, “There is a real sense of community; their research areas complement my interests and expertise, and I felt I could enhance and expand the research capabilities of the group.”   He studies quantum materials using ultrafast optical techniques—special kinds of lasers that produce pulses of light of different colors (or wavelength) where the pulses only last from a few femtoseconds to a few picoseconds.   Valdes Aguilar, a native of Mexico, credits watching Star Wars on VHS, circa 1985 with his interest in science in general, physics in particular. “Space travel, light sabers, laser cannons, it was all so exciting!”   A music lover, Valdes Aguilar plays the guitar, and, “I read, mostly non-fiction, but fiction as well. I like watching sports, so Ohio State will offer a great experience for that. I love spending time with my wife and our cat (Fermi).” (Valdes Aguilar joins us January 2014)

10 Department of Physics

  Gruzberg moved to Ohio State because, “it will allow me to broaden my research and it’s a great opportunity for my wife’s research program.” Gruzberg’s wife, Anna Dobritsa, joins the molecular genetics faculty.   A quantum condensed matter physicist, interested in scaling and critical phenomena, disordered systems, and topology and geometry in physics, Gruzberg hopes to cultivate collaborations with mathematicians. “Development of new tools and methods is crucial for progress in theoretical physics,” he said.   Gruzberg grew up in the Soviet Union, where, “I had lots of opportunities to engage in extracurricular activities like physics Olympics on Sundays.”   “Besides physics, I love classical music and cooking,” which he takes very seriously “I like to try something elaborate and spend all day cooking.” Gruzberg feels right at home in Columbus; he is impressed with the quality and variety of restaurants and looks forward to continued exploration of great new places to eat.

Ohio State’s collaborative spirit and great materials research facilities make it, “a place where I could see my research going up to an even higher level.” {Roland Kawakami}

Linda Carpenter

Roland Kawakami

Assistant Professor, Physics PhD—Johns Hopkins Previous Positions—Postdocs: UC-Santa Cruz; UC-Irvine

Professor, Physics PhD—UC–Berkeley Previous Position—Associate Professor (Physics): UC-Riverside

  The size of the physics department; numbers of faculty working on Large Hadron Collider ATLAS and CMS experiments; and—the Center for Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics (CCAPP); were big draws for Carpenter, who works on the LHC.   A theorist, Carpenter says, “My job is to try to predict what particles/forces exist in the universe— and tell experimental physicists what to look for. The nature of my work allows me to interface with work being done at CCAPP and other experiments being done at places like Fermi Gamma Ray Observatory.”   Her work depends on talking to other physicists, “So I spend a lot of time traveling to interact with colleagues.”   Carpenter grew up in Baltimore and went back and forth between the East and West Coasts doing undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral work. She is happy to have landed here; she enjoys exploring campus and the surrounding community, “I like large cities and I like being in a big university on a big campus where there are exciting things going on all the time.”

  A great five-year working relationship with Ohio State’s Center for Emergent Materials inspired Kawakami’s move.   Kawakami studies spintronics, the science and technology related to electron “spin.” Although his group at UC-Riverside was recognized as the country’s leading research group in graphenebased spintronics, he believes Ohio State’s collaborative spirit and great materials research facilities make it, “a place where I could see my research going up to an even higher level.”   As an undergraduate, Kawakami got hooked by “the elegance of the mathematics and the theoretical framework of physics; I like how it gets to the bottom of how nature works and builds everything from the ground up.”   When not in the lab, he likes to cycle, cook, and watch Jeremy Lin’s basketball games. “For cycling, I like the long distances and mountains. I have climbed up the Tour de France mountains like the Alpe d’Huez and Galibier pass and have done 100+ mile rides.” continued on page 12


Astrophysics here as an enterprise is still being built; it is clearly on the rise and the collaborative way research seems to be done here appealed to me {Christopher Hirata}

Comert Kural

Annika Peter

Assistant Professor, Physics PhD—University of Illinois-Champaign Previous Position—PostDoc: Harvard Medical School

Assistant Professor, Physics and Astronomy PhD—Princeton University Previous Positions—Postdocs: CalTech; UC-Irvine

  Ohio State’s diverse, dynamic biophysics group and a Life Science Network that facilitates crossdisciplinary research called out to Kural.   “Ohio State gives me the opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary group of scientists who combine aspects of biophysics, cellular and developmental biology to look at the ways live cells interact with their environment. We develop and use advanced live cell imaging techniques, which enable us to analyze intracellular events with the finest details in real time.”   Kural is interested in increasing awareness of biophysics and the ways physics helps in understanding biology; and in promoting greater scientific literacy. “I want to help address the gap between academics and society.”   Despite heavy research/teaching loads, Kural spends as much time with his three-yearold son as possible. “I want to encourage him to develop an appreciation for the Turkish language, culture and cuisine. To help with that, we only speak Turkish at home.”

  Peter’s research interests intersect physics and astronomy, so CCAPP, “an amazing resource that not all places have,” was a plus, along with “Ohio State’s level of collegiality, communication, and support” and willingness to hire both her and her husband, Chris Hirata.   She is excited to join an aspirational university, and two great departments taking serious steps to get even better.   Peter researches dark matter, which makes up about 26 percent of the Universe. “Even though we know it’s there, we don’t know what it is. My goal is to figure out how experiments or astronomical observations can be used to tease out specific properties of dark matter.” Also, she is interested in how galaxies work, particularly our home galaxy, the Milky Way.   She enjoys “trying out authentic cuisines from around the world with my husband, Chris (the spicier, the better!), reading non-fiction and Scandinavian crime novels, watching PBS and Deadliest Catch, playing with my two cats, and traveling.”

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THE GOLD STANDARD The Barry M. Goldwater Scholar Award is the top national award given to undergraduate students majoring in science, mathematics and engineering. Goldwater Scholars receive an award of up to $7,500 to cover costs of tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

Christopher Hirata Professor, Physics and Astronomy PhD—Princeton University Previous Position—Professor (Physics), CalTech

  Hirata, a PECASE award winner, newly-appointed Simons Investigator, and full professor at Cal tech at 29, clearly could have gone anywhere. But he chose Ohio State. “Astrophysics here as an enterprise is still being built; it is clearly on the rise and the collaborative way research seems to be done here appealed to me,” Hirata said.   Hirata, who is “primarily a cosmologist,” studies problems inherent in what is known thus far about dark energy. He hopes to tie dark energy to fundamental theories of the universe, using a theoretical framework plus observations, focusing on those found in the microwave background of the universe. He takes advantage of large-scale sky surveys and other tools used by astronomers to help untangle this phenomenon that he says, “is so bizarre it contradicts all intuition and doesn’t fit into any mathematical framework that describes the universe.”   How does he untangle himself? “I like to take long walks. It’s relaxing and clears the mind.” He also likes to cook, but dismisses the notion that he is “a cook.”

For the past nine years, Ohio State’s physics department has been tied with Harvard’s for the highest number of Goldwater Scholars awarded nationally: 9 Our newest addition to this elite class is Jonathan Timcheck, a sophomore majoring in engineering physics; he follows last year’s awardee, Johnny Greco, then a junior, majoring in physics and astronomy.

Number of physics Goldwater Scholars since 2005 The Ohio State University Harvard Cal Tech MIT Stanford Princeton UC–Berkeley Cornell

9 9 7 5 4 3 2 1


Bridging the Gap Jon Pelz and Michelle McCombs take a rare moment to relax under the Oval trees

Ohio State Awarded First APS Physics Bridge Program The American Physical Society (APS) selected Ohio State from a pool of 27 institutions nationwide to implement its first physics Bridge Program, which promises to make a significant impact on increasing the numbers of underrepresented minorities earning doctoral degrees in physics. Physics Professor Jon Pelz directs the new program, which kicked off fall semester with four students. Pelz, and physics faculty members Chris Hammel, Jay Gupta, Ezekiel Johnston-Halperin, and Michael Poirier, spearheaded the effort to establish a Bridge Program at Ohio State. A team of faculty and staff members applied for the APS Bridge Program grant in November, 2012 with the full backing of physics department faculty, the university, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Graduate School. Currently, about 40 new physics PhDs are awarded each year to under-represented minorities by the 185 institutions in the United States that grant PhDs. This is less than six percent of all physics PhDs awarded to U.S. citizens, even though this group makes up about 35 percent of the U.S. college age population as a whole. Bridge programs identify bachelor’s-degree students with the talent and drive to thrive as independent researchers; then provide them with one to two years of training and mentoring to prepare them to successfully transition into PhD programs.

14 Department of Physics

Studies of Bridge Programs in other disciplines have shown that these programs work, with Bridge Program students completing PhDs in top universities at a substantially higher rate than the average for ALL students entering PhD programs. Over 80 percent of those participating make a successful transition into PhD programs. “The key element,” Pelz said, “is substantial mentoring—by faculty research mentors who help them develop research skills and gain insight into the process of doing leading-edge research—and by current graduate students, who help them gain confidence in negotiating the graduate student culture. The willingness of both these groups to make this a successful ongoing effort was critical in our selection.” Michelle McCombs, program manager, Center for Emergent Materials, serves as Bridge Program coordinator, organizing mentoring and other activities to make sure students have access to a variety of resources. The award of $60,000 for three years is supported with matching funds from the Department of Physics, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Center for Emergent Materials. The Graduate School offered two Matching Tuition and Fee Awards with a total value of more than $83,000/year for non-resident students.

Our Students Our Legacy Our students—both undergraduate and graduate— carry our name forward. They become our alumni, our friends and are testimony to the quality of our teaching, training and mentoring. The top national awards that they earn each year make us proud. They tell us that we are doing things right—providing a competitive, world-class education at an affordable, Land-Grant University.

The Fulbright and NSF Fellowships Among the top national awards given to outstanding undergraduates and beginning level graduate students, Ohio State physics’ students garner a good share of Fulbright and NSF Fellowships each year.

Undergrad Awarded Fulbright: Samuel Stuard, engineering physics, received a one-year Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research in experimental condensed matter

physics at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, beginning March 2014. Stuard graduated with honors in May 2013. As an undergraduate, he did research with physics’ faculty member, R. Sooryakumar.

Physics Students Win NSF Fellowships: Undergraduates Edward McCary, John Moreland, and Mallory Molina, along with graduate student Sara Rajaram received NSF Fellowships to support three years of graduate study leading to research-based masters or doctoral degrees. 2,000 Fellowships are awarded annually to graduating seniors and first- and second-year graduate students to ensure the vitality of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in the United States. Additionally, Elizabeth Otto, an undergraduate in astronomy and physics; and Justin Young, a graduate student in physics, received honorable mention.


Non-Profit Org US Postage PAID Columbus, OH Permit #711 DEPARTMENT OF PHYSICS Physics Research Building 191 West Woodruff Avenue Columbus, Ohio 43210 (614) 292-5713

02620 011000 61801

but for Ohio State Talented under-represented minority students with bachelor’s degrees in physics might not have a proven pathway to physics PhD programs. The American Physical Society (APS) selected Ohio State from a pool of 27 institutions nationwide to implement its first physics Bridge Program. It promises to make a significant impact on increasing the numbers of underrepresented minorities earning doctoral degrees in physics. Bridge programs in STEM disciplines identify bachelor’s-degree students with the talent and drive to thrive as independent researchers; then provide them with one to two years of training and mentoring to prepare them to successfully transition into PhD programs. Studies of existing bridge programs show they are highly effective. Ohio State’s physics bridge program began autumn semester. Kevin Galiano, Brian Elwood, Brady Hood and Meron Dibia (pictured L-R above) form the inaugural class. What does it mean to you? Give back, change lives.

College of Arts and Sciences

Physics Magazine - 2013  

News from the OSU College of Arts and Sciences Department of Physics.

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